BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Prospero's Legacy - Part XXX
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. The team infiltrate the complex on Hera, but things don't quite go to plan. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2101    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The wind was blowing cold against them as they stood beside the well, little more really than a hole some eighteen feet across drilled straight down. Originally it had been inside a small wooden hut, protecting it from leaves, dirt and other such pollutants as any small animals that might have fallen in and drowned, but the war had swept that away.

“No water,” River said, her hair flying. “The underground stream was diverted, dammed, to keep it from supplying the Independents.”

“Would that be why we spent those weeks picking dirt out of our navels?” Mal asked.

“Speak for yourself, sir,” Zoe responded, strapping into her harness.

“I usually do.”

“All ready,” Jayne said, making sure the rope hung over a smooth area of rock and wasn’t likely to wear through as they were going down it. “You want me to go first, make sure the rope’s long enough?”

Mal considered briefly. “You go first, but we don’t have time to wait, nor to pull you back if it ain’t.”

Jayne grunted a chuckle. “Shiny. I’ll yell if there’s a big drop, just so’s you’re ready for it.” He positioned himself on the very lip.

“I wouldn’t worry,” Mal said. “Least we’ll have you to land on.”

The big man made a hand gesture illegal on several planets, then tugged on the rope one last time.

“Do you really think we can do this?” Simon asked quietly.

“No idea,” Mal admitted. “But I ain’t in the mood to wait for these things to get born and come out after us.”

“I don’t think any of us are.” Simon nodded, watching Jayne drop over the edge into the darkness, the only sign he’d gone a rapidly disappearing glow from the chemical light stick hanging from his belt.

Freya turned to Mal, then reached up and raked her lips across his, bruising and wanting equally, before following Jayne.

“You know, I don’t think Hank’s claustrophobia would have been able to stand this,” Simon added, staring at the well, and giving his Captain a moment to gather himself.

“I imagine you’re right about that.”

“Is that why you told him to stay on Serenity?”

“No.”

“Then -”

“Because he’s the best pilot I’ve got, besides Frey, and maybe he can keep the others from becoming Reaver-bait. And my wife refused to stay on board.”

“You asked?”

“I did. And I might be needing your services to tend to some of the wounds I sustained.”

Simon smiled tightly. “Whenever you want it.”

Zoe followed Breed and Dillon into the well, Alex at her heels.

“You got those antidotes?”

“Yes.” Simon patted his pockets where the tiny dispensers sat. “If you need them, the right hand pocket is the one against Reavers, the left is for everyone else.”

“You couldn’t combine ‘em?”

The young man shook his head. “No time. And they might have cancelled each other out if I’d tried. For all I know it could have made a poison.”

“Good job you didn’t then.” A thought struck him. “That gonna happen if we use ‘em both?”

“I don’t know, Mal. Probably not a good idea.”

“So it’s gonna be a case of wait and see?”

“I'm afraid so.”

“Sure hope you got quick hands, doc.”

“Simon.” River was in front of them. “Time to go.”

He stepped to the edge and looked down, feeling a cold sweat spring up between his shoulder blades. “Do you think claustrophobia is catching?”

“You’re the medic. But somehow I doubt it,” Mal said.

“Oh, good.” He attached his harness to the rope. “Just so that I know.”

Then it was just Mal and River. She moved closer to him.

“Two by two …” River whispered.

Mal jerked around. “They’re here?”

She nodded, her face almost white. “Very close.”

“Then we don’t have time to be dallying.”

River sat on the edge of the well, her hands ready to guide her down the rope. “You take care of us, jia yan,” she said, looking up at him, her eyes as dark as the blackness she was about to slide into.

“Odd, but I was thinking just the same thing about you, xiao nu.”

Her face softened, and she was gone.

Taking a deep breath, Mal peered over the edge, clamping down ruthlessly on his imagination, and failing almost entirely to eradicate the stories his boyhood friends used to tell about what lived at the bottom of deep, dark holes.

Dropping to the edge with slightly less grace than River had done, he activated the spikes on the cylinder in his hand, then slammed it into the ground. The spikes extended further, anchoring it to the dirt, as a small antenna popped free from the top. He grinned. Girl surely knew her stuff. Glancing once more towards his ship, towards his Serenity, he screwed up his courage and pushed off into blackness.

---

Kaylee wrapped her arms around her, the cold air making her shiver. At least, that’s what she told herself. Mal had given clear instructions, that as soon as they were gone she was to lock everything up tight, and basically hide. She didn’t like it, particularly as Simon was out there with them, but there was little she could do beyond some very minor disobeying, and now she was waiting, just in case they changed their minds and came back.

Not that they would. She’d seen the look on Mal’s face, recognised it all too well. Once before he’d describing it as misbehaving, and maybe it was. But only in the sense of doing something someone else didn’t want him to do. In this case, it was the Alliance and the New Browncoats, but then he always did aim big.

She’d read someplace, in one of River’s books, about something some ancient people from Earth-that-was used to say. She couldn’t recall the exact story, but the phrase that had stuck in her mind, that had kept her awake with the cold chills, was about men ‘coming back with their shields, or on them’. Victory or death. And that was the look she’d seen. No, they wouldn’t be coming home. Not ‘til it was done.

She rubbed her arms, the action somehow soothing, until a footstep behind her made her turn. “Oh, hey there, Regan.”

The older Mrs Tam smiled, but it wasn’t much more than a tilt to her lips. “Kaylee …”

“What is it?” She could tell something was bothering her mother-in-law, and her kind heart went out. “They’ll be okay, you know. The Cap’ll look after ‘em. He’s good at that.”

Regan clasped her hands in front of her. “Oh, I know that. I have a great deal of respect for your captain. But …”

“It’s okay. I feel the same. Anxious about everyone.”

“It’s just –“

The sound of engines overhead stopped all conversation and had the two women staring at each other. Kaylee ran to the open bay door. “Fan shou yin,” she breathed, making Regan blush slightly. She slammed her hand down onto the button, closing the hatch, activating the com at the same time. “Hank!”

“What is it, pumpkin?” he asked.

“I think you’d better let Mal know he’s gonna have company.”

“What?”

“A Fed shuttle just landed. I think that Commander Ubermann’s here.”

“Shit.” There was a slight pause. “Any sign they’re coming after us?”

“I don’t know. Don’t think so,” Kaylee admitted, wondering whether she should get one of the guns out from the armoury. “Looked like they were landing the other side of the bluff, awful close to where … but even if maybe there’s another way down to the lower levels, they gotta be careful.”

“Let’s hope they got those boosters set.” The com clicked off.

“Are … we safe?” Regan asked.

Kaylee bit her lip. “Can’t say.”

Regan felt her knees buckle, and she sat down hard on one of the crates. “No …”

“Hey, you okay?” Once again Kaylee’s concern for another human being overrode her drive for personal safety. “You want me to get your husband? You want me to find Gabriel for you?”

Regan wanted to laugh, but knew it would only turn to hysteria if she gave in to the impulse. “No.” She swallowed, trying to clear the lump in her throat. “He’s … he’s resting.”

Kaylee glanced towards the passenger quarters. “If’n you’re sure …”

The older woman pushed herself to her feet. “I'm sure. And I think I might just go and sit with him.” She forced a smile and walked slowly away.

Kaylee watched her, worrying at her lip, wondering why she felt unsettled.

---

Mal seemed to be dropping forever, and a small part of him wondered whether he was actually going to end up in that special hell Book had kept threatening him with.

Not unless I'm going to be there with you. Freya’s voice echoed in his mind just as her kiss echoed on his lips.

I figure you’re gonna be with the angels, xin gan. Playing one of them harps.

Probably very badly. She laughed, then again when he yelped as a hand grabbed his ankle.

“S’only me, Cap,” Jayne said, his eyes twinkling in amusement even in the barely-there light of the glow sticks. He guided Mal into a standing position, more than a decade of dead leaves, and probably a lot of other dead things, cushioning his landing.

“Thanks.”

“No probs.”

“What’s that smell?” he asked, although he was pretty sure what the answer was going to be.

“A body,” Jayne confirmed. “Been here a few days, and the rats’ve been at it.”

“Anyone we know?”

“Difficult to tell. Ain't got that much face left to speak of.”

“Probably someone who got on the wrong side of the folks down here.”

“Prob’ly. Checked his pockets, though.”

“Jayne, were you going to steal from a dead man?”

“No!” The ex-mercenary looked aggrieved. “Anyway, he didn’t have a credit on him. But he did have this.” He held out something.

Mal took it, noting it was one of the new model IDent cards, where just touching an area on it brought up the relevant information. Not much, admittedly, since his fingerprint didn’t let him beyond the first level, but it at least supplied the name of the dead man. “Chiang Goff,” he read, then gave a low whistle. “Parliamentary Member Chiang Goff.”

“Played with the hornets and got stung,” River commented, but didn’t appear to want a response.

“Sir?” Zoe moved closer.

“Looks like maybe these New Browncoats have friends in high places,” Mal said quietly.

“You don’t think Ubermann’s one of them, do you?” In the dim light her skin seemed to glow.

“Nope. He was pretty open about his hatred for Independents, and I don’t think he was that good an actor.”

“And the Alliance ships coming in?”

He smiled. “Zoe, don’t go looking for trouble. It’s gonna come finding us soon enough.” He looked at the rest of his assembled troops, wishing he had a hundred more. “Ready?”

“Yes, Mal,” Freya said, the reader in her hand. “And it’s that way.” She pointed into the mouth of darkness ahead of them.

“Then you –“ The com on his belt buzzed. He dragged it loose and thumbed the switch. “What is it, Hank?”

There was a lot of static, but eventually the pilot’s voice broke through. “… keep an … out for …”

“Hank, you’re breaking up.”

“Mal, wait.” Breed dropped to his heels and pulled one of Kaylee’s boosters from the sack, thrusting it deep into the accumulated crud and activating it. Immediately Hank’s voice was clearer, and they could hear what he was saying.

“That better?”

“Much,” Mal agreed. “You wanna repeat whatever it was?”

“Ubermann’s on his way. Landed in a shuttle a few minutes ago.”

Mal involuntarily looked up into the darkness above him. “Is he coming this way?”

“Can’t tell. Just … be careful.”

“Always am. And you remember what I told you.”

“Right.” The com cut off.

Mal blew out a breath through pursed lips then looked at his crew. “Everyone ready to go?” he asked.

There were assorted acknowledgements.

“Mal, don’t you think it would be better if Hank took Serenity somewhere else?” Alex said, settling the unexpected weight of the gunbelt around his hips a little more securely. “I don’t care about Columbine, but if the Reavers attack –“

“That’s pretty much what I told him to do,” Mal interrupted. “If he thinks there’s any kind of danger, he’s to hightail it away.”

“You don’t really think he’s going to do that, do you, sir?” Zoe put in, leading off down the rough hewn corridor. “With us still down here?”

“Zoe, I live in hopes of that man obeying one of my orders some day, and I'm kinda hoping it’s today.”

I hope you ain't holding your breath, sir.”

“Nope, Zoe,” Mal said, checking the others were following, Jayne bringing up the rear. “I ain't that far gone.”

With the first mate’s torch leading the way, they made fairly good time, with only a minor injury as Breed tripped over a rock where it had fallen from the wall, skinning his leg.

“I really can’t take you anywhere,” Dillon muttered, watching Simon apply a quick spray of antiseptic sealant.

“I can’t do much more, but I think you’ll live,” the young doctor said.

Breed stood up, shaking his trouser leg back down and looking slightly embarrassed. “Sorry about that,” he mumbled.

“No need to apologise,” Mal said. “It’s just a timely reminder we need to take care. I don’t doubt these tunnels ain’t exactly the safest.”

“Dug a long time ago,” River agreed, touching the walls with her fingertips, just like she was reading Braille. “Men bled to create these.”

Xaio nu, if you could hold back on the creepyfied comments I’d take it as a kindness,” Mal said after a long, very quiet pause. “I mean … unless it’s relevant.”

“Yes, Mal.” She smiled, but it wasn't her usual, and he noticed her foot was tapping out a rhythm on the ground.

“You okay?” He moved closer, putting his hand on her shoulder. “She getting to you?”

River shrugged, then nodded. “The closer I get, the more it hurts,” she admitted.

He could tell by the slight lines at the corners of her eyes that she was tense. “Okay. Just try not to shoot any of us by mistake.”

“I’ll try.”

“All I ask.” He motioned them forwards again. “You know, I’m not usually the one for wishing my life away, but I sincerely do wish right now that it was tomorrow.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Dillon said. “It might be worse.”

“Thanks for the attempt to cheer me up.”

“You’re welcome.”

It was barely another fifteen minutes before they realised the darkness ahead of them was thinning, and then they were in a narrow corridor, the floor and walls smooth, with metal braces at regular intervals, lit by panels in the ceiling.

“Okay, people,” Mal whispered, dropping his voice without conscious thought. “Extra care, now.” He moved forward, stopping at a junction. “Frey?”

She consulted the reader. “Left. Then right. That brings us into the main access route. From there it’s an easy passage to the various areas of the complex.”

He smiled grimly. “Shiny.”

She was right. Less than ten minutes and they were waiting at the main corridor.

“It’s very quiet,” Simon murmured.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Alex replied, barely moving his lips.

“Maybe too quiet,” Dillon agreed.

Mal and Zoe exchanged glances. One thing they’d learned, from years of war and then of a peace that wasn't exactly peaceful, was not to say such things as it was too quiet. That was just asking for –

A bullet whined past Mal’s ear, and he felt the breeze against the old scar tissue.

Tzao gao,” he muttered, and ducked as other guns opened up.

Everyone scuttled back into the comparative safety of the side corridor.

“What was that phrase you used?” Dillon asked. “Something about not stirring up a hornet’s nest?”

Mal laughed shortly, the sound lost in the noise of gunfire. “Yeah. I figure my Ma’d be telling me off about now and bandaging my stings with vinegar.”

“We probably tripped any number of detectors. Just because we can’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there.”

“Yeah, and I'm guessing these New Browncoats are probably pretty paranoid.” He stuck his head around the corner, counting the number of guns as they tried to separate it from his shoulders. Ducking back, he leaned on the wall. “I make it ten.”

“Twelve,” Jayne corrected him, dropping to one knee and opening fire, not even looking where he was aiming. “Eight rifles and four repeaters.”

“You sure?”

“Pretty much.”

“Keep ‘em occupied.”

“And there I was considering takin’ River on a picnic.”

His wife settled next to him, her own guns in her slender hands. “That would be nice. But I think we have something to do first.”

“You got it, moonbrain.”

Mal dropped back a few feet, letting the ex-mercenary and the crazy, lunatic assassin get on with it. “Frey, can we get to where we need to go another way? Maybe off that junction?”

She shook her head, staring at the small palm reader. “Not to the hybrids. The com room is back that way, but –“

“Shiny. Take Alex and get that jamming equipment shut down.”

Her head jerked up. “Mal, I can’t just –“

“Yes, you can.” He took her arm. “We knew we were gonna have to split up. It’s just come a bit quicker than expected.”

“Mal –“

“Take Alex. We’ll keep ‘em occupied here, give you a chance to slip back.” He leaned forward. “We need to get those AntiPax formulas out, soon as we can.” She stared at him, and he could almost tell the moment she gave in as her eyes changed from fury to acceptance. “Good girl.”

“Ain't a girl,” she murmured.

“You are to me. Now, soon as you’re done you meet us by the hybrid containment area. You know where that is?”

She nodded. “You’d better keep this.” She handed him the reader.

“Go on. Better get going.” This time it was him who pressed his lips to hers, then turned her round and slapped her on the rump.

She glared at him over her shoulder before grabbing Alex by the arm and dragging him back down the narrow corridor.

Mal made his way back. “How’re we doing?”

“Okay, now it’s ten,” Jayne said.

“You know, we need to make a barricade.” Mal glanced out, staring at the doors a short way along the corridor.

“A grenade?”

“You got a low yield?”

“A couple, but –”

“We don’t want the concussion to kill us, do we? Besides, we don’t know how secure the roof is.”

“Fine.” The big man seemed put out at not being able to blow up something bigger, but he reached around his back and pulled two canisters from the back of his vest. “Here,” he said. “Better do this together.”

Mal nodded. “You take the left side, I’ll take the right …”

“And I’ll be on Three Hills before you …”

They twisted, counted, then tossed the grenades, ducking back, hands over ears. A double boom thudded through the floor, and the air seemed to vibrate in sympathy.

River was the first to check. “We have cover,” she said.

Mal joined her. She was right. The two explosives had blown open rooms on either side, and brought down some of the wall. There was a barricade between two and five feet high right the way across. “Couldn’t have planned it better,” he muttered. “Okay, we need to –“

“Mal, we’ve got company!” Dillon yelled, pushing Breed in front of him. “I think Ubermann’s arrived, and he’s behind us!”

Without another word the four men and one woman slid from the corridor to behind the barrier, spreading out behind the higher sections. Gunfire renewed the other side, but at least for the moment they had some shelter.

“Jayne. Big grenade. Block their entry.”

The big man grinned. “Yeah.” He got ready.

“It’s all right,” River said softly, touching Mal’s arm. “Freya and Alex had reached the other corridor. They weren't seen. They are being followed, though.”

“She know?”

“She does now.”

“Thanks.”

“Fire in the hold,” Jayne warned, tossing the grenade into the corridor and running back.

A man followed him, dressed in grey, purple glinting from his body armour. He raised an odd-looking rifle.

“Mal!” River shouted, aiming and shooting even as Mal pulled Jayne away and out of the line of fire.

The soldier fell backwards, just as the grenade exploded and brought the roof of the side corridor down, but Mal couldn’t get out of the way fast enough.

The gas pellet exploded in his face, and he took a breath that smelled of death and roses before he could stop himself. Simon, horrified, ran towards him past the lower sections of wall, miraculously not getting hit by any bullets.

“Mal!” he shouted, his hands drawing out one of each of the vaccines, but not knowing which one to use. Get it wrong and Mal might have time to tear him to pieces … He skidded to a halt on his knees in front of his captain and friend.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 9:45 AM

WAKEUPSOON


MAL!! Tense stuff. Anxious for more.
Anna.x.(:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 9:55 AM

NCBROWNCOAT


You have a talent for leaving us right on the edge. Now, I'll wonder what happened until the next chapter is posted.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 2:10 PM

AMDOBELL


Excellent! Talk about thrilling heroics. I am hoping that Simon makes the right guess or Mal is toast, or Reaver toast, whatever. Hope something mighty nasty happens to Ubermann. Can't wait to see what happens next! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 4:22 PM

KATESFRIEND


What a time for Simon to wonder which pocket to use! Great chapter and plenty of action from start to finish. Loved this and looking for more!

Thursday, November 20, 2008 4:17 PM

SLUMMING


What I liked most about this chapter was the exchange between Mal and River about moderating the creepifying comments. So very Mal! :D


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